Fear of Success Is a Very Real Thing

Aspiring entrepreneurs can quickly become their own worst enemies.
Entrepreneur Leadership Network Writer
Founder of The Wildest Co
6 min read
Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

While a of failure can be incredibly destructive, it’s the fear of success that can absolutely destroy your business, because most of us aren’t even aware that we have a fear of success.

It sounds borderline ridiculous to be afraid of doing well. As entrepreneurs, we wouldn’t be putting ourselves out there if we didn’t want to succeed, so it’s laughable to imagine that not wanting to win would hold us back.

Except it does.

I’ve made countless mistakes, so I’ve learned to reframe setbacks as a sign that I’m doing something right rather than something I should be scared of. 

Success, however, terrifies me. As a result, I’ve inadvertently self-sabotaged myself more times than I could count. I’ve quit just before the finish line, I’ve gained momentum only to jump ship as things are taking off, and I’ve even walked away from thousands of dollars of potential business, burgeoning social media platforms and speaking opportunities. I’d throw myself into a new project, watch it surge with potential and suddenly lose interest so many times that I practically gave myself whiplash. 

It wasn’t until my own project manager confronted me about it that I realized what was happening. I’d spent so many years believing financial independence was perpetually just beyond my fingertips that I didn’t even realize I was the one keeping myself from attaining it.

While there are many reasons behind my struggle, I’ve learned that the why doesn’t matter as much as what I’m going to do about it. There are a few strategies I’ve picked up along the way that have helped me cope with my fear and prevent it from turning into self-sabotage.
Related: 9 Ways to Conquer Fear and Realize Your True Potential

1. Keep a success log

For the last few years, I’ve kept a folder on my desktop called “Feel Good Fuel” and it serves many purposes.

Inside the collection are various screenshots of emails, comments and accomplishments that I’ve gathered over the years that serve as a phenomenal pick-me-up whenever I’m having a bad day or struggling with a tough situation.

The other purpose of this practice is to house my success log, (i.e., a list on the notes app on your phone, screenshots or a handwritten note in your journal—and it works exactly as it sounds). It reminds you of your path as well as what winning actually feels like. 

Your log can help remind you of what really happens when you excel, which can help you stay motivated and on-track even when your fear might tell you otherwise.

2. Practice positivity

Elite athletes and have been practicing positive self-talk for years and there’s a good reason behind this habit: It works.

The messages that we’re sending ourselves matter. By practicing positive self-talk, you can make an effort to consciously control your story.

Remind yourself that success is a good thing and don’t be afraid to counter any negative thoughts that creep in about your anxieties. Try to practice being more mindful of what’s going on within your internal dialogue, and—instead of trying to shut down negative thoughts—learn how to respond to them and redirect them rather than letting them control your actions. 

3. Focus on your why

Most of us have heard of ’s famous TedX Talk on “How Great Leaders Inspire Action”: He emphasizes knowing (and communicating) your “why” as the reason some leaders and businesses are more successful than others.

It’s this focus that attracts people to you, Sinek argues, which is exactly why—if you’re struggling with a fear of success—you need to use this trick to keep yourself engaged. 

“Achievement happens when we pursue and attain what we want,” explains Sinek. “Success comes when we are in clear pursuit of why we want it.” 

You need to keep the reason why you’re doing what you’re doing front and center.

4. Stretch your comfort zone

The more you’re doing things that make you uncomfortable, that trigger a sense of fear or anxiety, the easier it becomes to face those things and move through them. 

When I get stuck in my comfort zone, my fears thrive. Everything outside the bubble seems to get a little bit bigger and more overwhelming, but—once I start toeing my way into the unknown—I inevitably find out things are never as bad as I thought they would be.

You wouldn’t expect a single trip to the gym to suddenly transform your , so don’t expect a single to skyrocket your confidence. As an entrepreneur, you’re going to face the unknown on a regular basis. The sooner you familiarize yourself with those feelings, the easier it will be to navigate them. 

Related: How to Take 4 Strategic Steps Outside of Your Comfort Zone

5. Get outside help

Never be afraid to get outside help: Talk to a trusted friend or advisor about what you’re experiencing and see what insight they have to share on the subject. 

Think about hiring a coach who can help you work through your fear as well as any underlying reasons that might be contributing to it. Therapy is an incredible tool that many managers turn to and it can help give you  benefits like improved communication skills and healthier coping strategies. 

Remember that you don’t have to learn how to eliminate your fear of success in order to be successful—you just need to know how to recognize it and learn how to carry on. 
Related: Why Embracing Failure Is Good for Business

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